Back view of pretty young woman athlete with balnk screen smartphone running on treadmill in gym
Image: Shutterstock/Dean Drobot

When heading to the gym, most people have one thing in mind: reaching their health and fitness goals. However, most don’t think about the dangers that lurk all around them. Discover what the dirtiest equipment in the gym is, and what you can do to prevent yourself from letting them disrupt your workout.

Exercise mat

You will likely be using an exercise mat during a group class, while doing yoga, or while stretching out. As you sweat all over this mat think about all the other members that have done the same before you. Your borrowed mat is loaded with microbes that can cause cold and flu illnesses, athlete’s foot, and even hepatitis A. Yikes! Solve the problem by bringing your own mat.

Free weights

The hard surface of the free weights is a perfect spot for bacteria to grow. It is safe to say that this is probably the most used equipment in the gym and it hardly gets cleaned. You can protect yourself by wiping these down with a disinfectant before you get to lifting. Always make sure that you are not touching your face, thus spreading the germs to your mouth and nose.

Exercise bike

The bike that you sit on for a stationary ride can be dangerous too. Even if an employee disinfects it, in 63% of cases studied, the rhinovirus and other bacteria can still be found there including yeast, fungi, and staph. Even though you are just sitting on it, it is in your best interest to give it a quick cleaning before you take your spot and to wash up right afterward.


Your favorite running machine holds up to 74 times more bacteria than a water fountain, and water fountains can be pretty filthy. Some of the germs you can commonly find include gram-positive cocci, gram-positive rods, and gram-negative rods. Minimize touching the sidebars and heart pulse monitors. It can be helpful to wear your own fitness tracker.

Fitness balls

Staph is frequently found on inflatable fitness balls. It can make you severely sick or even cause death if it gets in through an open cut or wound. Use a disinfectant or alcohol spray to clean the ball and your hands. You can also create a barrier by putting a towel between yourself and the ball.

Spinning bikes

The handlebars and seat on this device are a great squishy place for the festering of germs like MRSA, strep, and E. coli. Clean with alcohol and use antibacterial cleaner on your hands when you’re done.

Do you have the creeps thinking about the gym now? Sorry, but better to know the facts about the dirtiest equipment in the gym so you can practice some precaution, right? To best protect yourself when entering the gym, wipe down any of the equipment that you are going to use, unless you have seen a gym employee do it with your own eyes right before you are going to use it. Also, make sure to keep your hands away from your face and wash up when you’re done.